Laid out on the Bushmen’s River in 1848, it was first named Bushmen’s River Post or Bushmen’s Drift. The name was changed in 1863 to Estcourt, said to be in honour of a British Member of Parliament, Thomas H Estcourt, a friend of an early settler, J W Wilks.
Because of problems with Bushman cattle-raiders, a fort. was built in 1849 to guard the fording place (drift) over the Bushman River. Lt. Col. Dunnford, after whom it is named, built the fort and it is still standing today. Numerous ghosts reputedly haunt it. The Fort Dunnford Museum was opened in 1980 and is housed in the old fort-overlooking Escort. Its main exhibit is the fort itself as being a fine example of the late Victorian military architecture.
The town is currently the centre of a considerable industry in livestock. Its co-operative bacon factory produces great quantities of sausages, bacon and ham, etc and Nestle has a large dairy product factory there as well.